There are many steps you can take prior to leaving that will make your trip more enjoyable and successful. I talked about getting into shape and making sure your feet are taken care of yesterday here. Today I expand on a few more topics.
Although jet lag is just a fact of life with travel, there are many things you can do to minimize the effects.
- Adjust your schedule a few days before departure by trying to go to bed an hour earlier or more (I know, this never works for me either but can be helpful if traveling with younger children).
- Start thinking on local time as soon as you board that plane, set your watch to Italy time as you wait for take off.
- Keep hydrated on the flight and after arrival, this is crucial and you will be surprised at how much better you will feel.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine. I know that sounds just down right mean considering where you are going. I settle for a compromise and avoid both prior to leaving and during the flight (just remember the wine you are about to enjoy is one hundred times better than anything they serve in a bottle, even if it is free!). My first night I take it easy with my wine at dinner but there is no way I would miss my morning cappuccino.
- Eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies both before and after arriving. This should be easy to do once in Italy, just head to the morning market and take your pick.
- Try to exercise and get outside the day before you leave. Once in Italy do your best to stay awake (only nap if you arrive in the morning and never ever fall asleep in the afternoon). Walking around town and getting as much fresh air as possible will help; sunshine is the ultimate antidote to jet lag.
PASSPORTS AND IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS
You will need only your passport to enter Italy. A few important things to keep in mind: Your passport must be valid for six months AFTER you return home and you should give yourself three months minimum if you are applying for the first time.
If you plan on driving in Italy you will need an International Drivers License. These are easily obtained at any AAA office, the required waiting period is just long enough to let the photo dry. While this is not required in Italy, I never travel without one. You want a document that the police can read in Italian should you get into any trouble. Depending on the person, you could wind up with a ticket simply out of his frustration with your English license. You will need to bring your American driver’s license and will not be able to rent your car without it.
You will need to make three copies of all your important documents (passport, both driver’s licenses, any insurance cards or important medical information like prescriptions) and the international phone numbers for your bank/credit cards. Keep one copy at home with family, another copy hidden in your luggage and the last in your money belt. I know this may sound a bit much, but nothing will ruin your vacation faster than losing one of these and not knowing the important information needed to fix the problem.
Italy can often get a bad rap when it comes to the topic of safety. We’ve all heard stories about the gypsies, pickpockets and amorous men. While all of this does exist, you can protect yourself from anything happening to you. I have been traveling to Italy since I was 19 years old and have never had a problem. I firmly believe this is because of the way I travel. The single most important thing you can do is use a money belt. These are discreet pouches that actually tuck into your clothing. If someone wants to rip you off they basically have to remove your pants, and my guess is you are going to notice that. Thieves are looking for easy targets and there are plenty of them around. They are not going to take the time or the risk trying to steal from you. Instead they will target the distracted tourist with a camera bag on one shoulder and a big fanny pack around their waist.
I do carry a day pack but it contains nothing of value and when I have my camera out I make sure that I am aware of it at all times and never put it casually around my shoulder. If I must stop to look at a map while carrying a pack, I make sure I am in a spot where a can back up against a wall and never out in the open. I watch the crowds. Pickpockets can be the typical out of place looking gypsy with a baby and kids, but they can also be a well dressed middle aged man. Use your money belt (even though it can get sweaty in the summer), keep your valuables at home, wear your day back securely on both shoulders and keep a sense of your surroundings. I leave my wedding ring at home and travel with a band.
While I did have my fair share of bottom pinching that first trip, I have not had any problems with the men since. Hopefully that is a reflection on my presence and not my appearance! Italian men will look; it is how they are raised and it is in their blood. I choose not to be offended at that and instead use it as a little ego boost. What I do not allow is unwanted forwardness. To avoid that I will speak directly, simply and loudly if I have to. If you beat around the bush, hesitate or even offer the faintest of a smile you will have an admirer. But honestly, that type of negative interaction is rare. I do enjoy my conversations with men and have met many interesting people, but because I am firm and direct I never feel uncomfortable. I have also noticed that the younger generations seem to be more respectful in general to females.
I have had people tell me that the big cities in Italy were dirty, noisy, pushy and overwhelming. I can understand this view if not approached with the right frame of mind. It is dirty compared to other cities and graffiti is everywhere, but it is mostly harmless soccer trash talk and not the negative gang related stuff we are used to. It is noisy and overwhelming; the people are loud and boisterous. These people wear their hearts on the sleeves and this is what makes Italy so unique and so passionate. Just be ready for it and learn to enjoy the organized chaos of it all!
Remember: Use a money belt, be aware of your surroundings (especially in the major tourist areas and train stations) and keep the important things at home.
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